Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Foot of Your Foot: The Great Toe

Lately, we have had quite a few of our patient’s over the age of forty complaining of pain in the big toe joint. Typically, forty is the age when early arthritis symptoms tend to manifest and, in the foot, we see the great toe joint as the most common. This is due to the mechanical load and the important role it plays in every step we take. When we walk, our big toe joint bends up to an impressive 75 degrees just before the foot leaves the ground. But, sometimes, due to unusual wearing and tearing of the cartilage in the toe joint, the toe becomes stiff and starts to hurt. This is called Hallux Limitus.

Hallux Limitus is a progressive arthritic condition that limits the motion and function of the big toe. Symptoms of this condition come on slowly. You may only notice a mild, temporary pain when you are in motion or when you move the big toe joint. Eventually, the pain may worsen and in some cases dorsal bunions or bone spurs may develop and cause additional pain. The big toe is extremely important for proper foot/ankle/knee/hip and even low back bio-mechanics so it is important you don’t go untreated.

Symptoms of Hallux Limitus are based on the stage in which you are in. Your symptoms may or may not include: Pain while active or when you move the big toe joint, stiffness in the big toe, increased pain or aches in cold or damp temperatures, difficulty bending big toe up and down, difficulty wearing shoes, especially high heels, and development of bone growths (bunions, bone spurs).

It’s important to know that these symptoms signify the early stages of this condition. Each of these symptoms will slowly worsen until you’ve reached a point of no movement within the big toe joint. Hallux Limitus is caused by one of four things: Genetics, injury, a long first metatarsal bone (or short second metatarsal), or an elevated first metatarsal bone.

Hallux Limitus is a progressive condition that can lead to further problems, including complete loss of motion in the big toe joint. It’s best to see your podiatrist in the early stages or before bone growths develop. Your doctor will begin with a physical examination so he or she can determine the range of motion within the joint. Imaging tests such as x-rays and MRIs are often used to determine whether arthritis is present, to see how much the joint has narrowed, and to evaluate the foots overall health.

Treatment options include:

  • A Morton’s extension can be used to relieve pain. These durable semi-rigid medical devices can be found in podiatry offices, and they are designed to provide support and shift weight away from the big toe to reduce pain.
  • Accommodative cushions made of foam work for Hallux Limitus, since it pads the big toe joint and protects it from painful shoe pressure.
  • Turf toe plates limit the range of motion of the great toe joint, which makes this product ideal for treating both Hallux Limitus and Hallux Rigidus.
  • Athletic or running shoes made especially for over-pronators (flat feet) can provide support. They are less flexible than conventional running shoes, which enables them to limit the motion of the joint.

If you believe you may have Hallux Limitus and you live in the Greater Dayton/Springfield area, give Community Foot Specialists a call. Your feet will be in good hands! 937-426-9500